Sunday, June 22, 2014

no direction home

It's 5:40 pm in Hawaii.  I am sitting in the yard of the home that I am caring for while my friends are on the east coast, communing with their families, showing off the kids.  It is, by all intents, perfect here.  The sun is drifting towards the horizon and the trade winds push puffy clouds across the blue sky and rustle palm leaves around the yard.  In the perfectly cut lawn, I finish up a series of physical therapy exercises that I am likely to have to do for the remainder of my life if I want to have the ability to run without injury.  I transition next into some yoga, long neglected in favor of less adaptive and more destructive coping habits acquired during graduate school.  My hip flexors have been gelling into a permanently shortened state due to my sitting at a desk for the better part of the last 2 years.  I ease myself into various lunges, warriors, pigeons and happy-baby poses, holding them for the requisite 3 minutes for each side, a painful duration, though necessary in order to coax tendons and ligaments back to a more human (that is to say, homo erectus), lengthened and healthy state.  Psoas, rectus femoris, piriformis, pectineus.  They are all mad at me today.  It hurts to undo the damage.  My body protests, as does my mind.  Sitting quietly with uncomfortable sensations is the crux of yoga, and, quite truthfully, much of life.

As such, my mind decides to forget 'the breath' and wander to the upcoming task of walking walking walking for hundreds and hundreds of miles.  For the first time, these last few days, I am fully able to focus on the idea of walking for months.  I am excited about it, but I also start to wonder how it will shake out.  I worry about my latent injuries, small ones that still speak up from time to time and remind me that I am human, imperfect, prone to undertaking tasks for which I am not fully prepared to undertake. I wonder what it will be like to walk day after day on rough terrain with little preparation other than these next 3 weeks to try to stretch things out and build up some physical reserve.  I walk every day.  I walk up and down hills and mountains.  I walk on the pavement.  I walk on the sand.  I walk in the searing tropical/equatorial heat without water.  I walk in 85% humidity, hoping that my body will learn to sweat less, lose less salt, conserve precious resources in the face of strenuous circumstances.

I think I am adapting.  I am adapting to heat, humidity and intense sun. I am adapting to walking instead of running.  Walking takes serious patience, and this is something I have always lacked.  I have had to slow everything down since walking down the aisle in a black robe and mortar board, and accepting my new fate.  I am homeless.  This is by design, of course, but disarming none the less.  I gave up my apartment in San Francisco because, frankly, I would rather stab my eyes out with an ice pick than live another day in that city.  My things are in storage in Pacifica (even my things couldn't bear the thought of living another day in SF).  My dog is in Oregon.  My car is in Mill Valley.  Under normal circumstances, this would be somewhat stressful, but since I have no concept of what 'home' is, I actually don't mind this limbo.  As is the case with every single human being, I have no idea what the future holds.

The future is a funny concept, and if there is one thing I've learned in the last 5 years it is that we really don't know anything about what we are doing.  Or, I should speak for myself here.  I don't have any idea.  I mean, yeah, I go through the motions as if I know:  care for ailing parents, send cards to siblings, keep up my end of the deal in relationships, attend graduate school, plant a garden, make the mortgage payments on time, etc.  But who am I kidding?  Who is anyone kidding?  We just don't know what tomorrow will bring.  In my case, this reality is somewhat more tangible because I have no plans to even begin looking for a job until late September, or thereabouts.  My reason:  I don't know what I want to do.

I fantasize about cleaning stalls in a fancy horse stable full of gorgeous warmbloods.  I dream about selling my house in Portland and using the  money to buy a small piece of land in Medford or the Oregon Coast where I can begin a tiny little organic farm.  I think about starting a salad dressing company, and a no-kill dog shelter.  No where in any of this is there room for thoughts of sitting in small, cramped clinic exam rooms...  Can I help just one person?  If so, i have to believe it would all be worth it. 

Visiting my friends here in Hawaii always triggers an existential crisis for me.  The couple I speak of are good friends from a different time in my life.  The man:  a former surf buddy.  The woman:  a former nursing school colleague.  I matched them up and they've been married for about 8 years now.  They have 3 kids, a compact car, a mini van, a dog, 2 cats... they own their house in a quiet rural-type cul-de-sac on the north shore of Hawaii.  For some reason, I can't wrap my head around any of it, though I respect them and love them, so I do try.  

I have a small freak-out when I think of succumbing to the career track... So instead I will walk.  I hope to walk until something makes sense.  Just a glimpse of some kind of sense.  That is really the objective.  Until then, I prepare:  I hold the poses, retrain the breath and hope to sit, for even a minute, with uncomfortable sensations.

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